History of Towson Avenue in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Towson Avenue Fort Smith Arkansas

Anyone who has spent much time at all in the Fort Smith, Arkansas area knows that there is a lot of history. One of the most well known historical sites is Judge Parker's hanging gallows. However, there is also a rich history of the Civil War as well. 

In the summer of 1864, Fort Smith, Arkansas was a critical geographic region where the Confederate troops met the Union soldiers. There was a big decision that had to be made...The Confederate General Douglas Cooper could storm the fortifications of Fort Smith or he could attempt a powerful demonstration against them. However, there was a major dilemma for soldiers and civilians at this time - a shortage of supplies and food.  General Cooper decided to he hoped to attract isolated Federal units outside the town's defenses, to gather horses and beef cattle being grazed on the prairies around Fort Smith, and to create a defense behind which pro-Confederate families in the area could vacate the region.

General Darby Cooper Fort Smith Arkansas

In order to successfully carryout this defensive plan, four other parties were involved and posted up for support.  Defense one was located where what we call today, Fianna Hills. Defense two was located with their back up against the Poteau River. These two parties combined, would be able to create a distraction These men would be able to create a distraction by firing into the main garrison. Cooper would then move the main body of his military forward in two columns up what we call Towson Avenue (formerly called Fort Towson). 

With the help of Brigadier General Stand Watie (the only Native American to claim the rank of general in the service of the Confederacy), when nightfall came,, all forces were put in place by July 30, 1864. With daybreak the next morning, the Battle of Fort Smith began. 

General Watie, meanwhile led his columns forward through the parallel down Fort Towson
and State Line roads, taking over a Union outpost several miles outside of town and driving up quickly to within view of the earthworks of Battery or Fort Number Four. This fort stood between what we now know as Towson and Wheeler Avenues along Dodson Avenue.

Brigadier General Stand Watie

 

It wasn't long before the Union began to fight back. Marching forward they created a line of
battle between Towson and Wheeler Avenues and formed up a battery of more substantial
artillery that quickly suppressed the fire of Cooper's guns.

This exactly what Cooper wanted...and he got it. Now that the Union fell for his plan, Cooper ordered his men to disengage.  They did so casually, leaving Native American snipers hidden in the brush to engage any Union troops audacious enough to move forward from their battle line. The tactic worked and the Confederates easily ended their attack and withdrew from the battlefield but not without taking $130,000 worth of Union arms and supplies.